When you’re setting up a new business, there are a lot of things to think about. What name will you give your business? What logo would look good? Should you be a sole trader or a limited company? The list goes on… Writing a business plan may be way down your ‘to do’ list. Perhaps it’s something you plan to get around to when things get quieter or perhaps you just don’t see the need at all. You already know what your business will be and how you will make it a success, so why write it down?
Why is a business plan important?
To create clear goals it’s absolutely key in any business that you have goals. These allow you to focus your business activities. Everything you do, whether it be your marketing, your branding, your customer service processes or your product itself, should all be done with the aim of achieving the same business goals.
To identify potential problems
Wouldn’t it be great to know before you invest in and launch your business, if there’s some fundamental flaw that will prevent success? By creating a business plan, you can think through the practicalities of how your business idea will work. What costs will you have? What risks are there to success? By identifying these things up front you will be more prepared should problems arise.
To support growth & investment If you are going to need financial help to get your business started then a sound business plan is vital. Any prospective lender or investor will want to have confidence that your business is being set up to be profitable and successful.”
What should my business plan include?
A business plan might include different things depending on who it is written for. A plan that is being presented to investors in the hope of attaining financial input is likely to be different to a plan written by a sole trader in order to focus their activities over the coming months.
That being said, there are a few fundamental elements that should always appear in a good business plan, no matter who the audience;
Your Mission Statement or Vision
This statement should tell people exactly what the purpose of your business is. What problems you are there to solve, what makes you unique and what you stand for.
Be specific here – it should be more than just ‘make money’ or ‘get customers’! Drill down further to understand what you need to achieve in order to ‘make money’ or ‘get customers’. It may be that one of your goals is to build an email list, or perhaps get your product featured in a local newspaper… Only by including goals in your plan will you know what success looks like.
It’s often said that a company is only as good as its employees and for this reason, it’s important to include information on the background and qualifications of the key personnel that you will employ – even if that’s just you.
Your Products & Services
Here, you will break down what you will be selling. Think about your revenue streams – will there just be one core product or will you offer a number of different ones?
Once you’ve established what products and services you will provide, it’s important to plan how you will get your message out there to the right people. Think about who your ideal customers will be and where they are most likely to look for your service. It may be that you should be focusing your marketing online or perhaps door to door leaflets would make more sense.
In order to be successful, you need to stand out from your competitors so it’s important to study them and understand what they’re doing well and what you can do better.
This is a key element of any business plan. This is where you show what costs & income you will have. You should include both one off costs for starting up, but also any ongoing costs that you’ll incur. You’ll also forecast your income and in doing so, you’ll be able to plan your monthly income and expenditure. Don’t forget to include any funding you may require and factor this in too.”
Business plan examples
If you’re struggling to get started with your business plan then it can often be useful to look through examples of what others have written. If you have friends or family with their own businesses perhaps you could ask to look at theirs. It can be even more beneficial to see example for businesses in a similar niche to yours.
Why not join small business groups on social media such as Facebook or LinkedIn? People in these groups will often be willing to help with ideas and might even share examples of their own plans with you too.
Lastly, you can always search online for ‘ business plan examples’ and you’re bound to come up with a few useful answers to help you along the way.
How often should I update my business plan
Once you’ve completed your business plan, don’t be tempted to heave a sigh of relief, shove it in a drawer and then forget about it. What a waste of all your hard work!
This should be a document that you revisit often. Keep checking back to make sure you’re staying on track to meet your goals.
Equally important, you should re-assess your plan frequently to ensure it is still appropriate and relevant. Change happens and your business must be flexible enough to adapt.
Whether it be daily, weekly or monthly, you should review and update your plan as much as you need to in order to stay on track of your original mission statement.
Can’t remember what that was? Check your business plan!